Analyzing Frank Ocean’s “Nikes”


nikes is the first single from frank oceans third album entitled “blonde”. it’s a deeply moving song which burns through a lot of topics such as, capitalism, love, humanity, materialism and drugs.

before we even get into the nikes video, i wanted to shed some light on the finished product in the “endless” staircase frank made. i believe the staircase is a metaphor for fame.gE0CPiolooking at the staircase, it’s evident that the steps start out light and end up becoming darker and darker. just as the music industry and fame in general. when you’re at the lowest point, you have no fame, no height but you do have freedom. however, once you start climbing the stairs to fame, the drugs, demons and women come out and thus you end up becoming unbalanced in the midst of all that’s happening. notice how frank didn’t build a railing? because there’s no help once you get to that stage, there’s no tutorial online on how to live your life. frank’s a quiet guy and an even more reclusive artist, the fame that he attracts may not be of the essence of the jackson’s or jordan’s but to him, it’s a variable he can’t change.

on to the music video!kC4R0a4it starts off with frank the infamous line “i got twoo versions, i got twoo versions” which almost sounds like he’s saying “i got two virgins”tbcfc2Zinfact, frank ends up showing two virgins marrys.pZ9QU5athe first verse:

these bitches want nikes (this is a setup)
they looking for a check (oh my god)
tell em it ain’t likely (this bitch tryna set me up)
said she need a ring like carmelo (Hands up, oh my god)
must be on that white like othello (oh my, it’s a real life angel)
all you want is nikes (yeah)
just like me (tell these guys you ain’t basic)

this verse discusses greed and materialism, the need to get nikes makes this girl feel complete, confident and complete, just like carmelo anthony, though he’s super successful with millions of dollars in the bank and sponsorships, he needs a ring to cement himself.

“these bitches want nikes” – “said she need a ring like carmelo”

it then goes on to touch up on drugs:

“must be on that white like othello”

othello is referencing a play by shakespeare, othello is a black character who is accused of seducing white women using drugs.

the women with the money covering her body reminds me of american beautyyii84wCamerican beauty deals with sexuality and acceptance as well so this nod is definitely intentional and a clever one.DTNNQEwthe second verse:

(tell these guys you ain’t basic, tell these guys you wear zanottis,
you a hottie, this is heaven on earth)
but if you need dick I got you and I yell from the line
(but if you’re in the party don’t bring your shotty love everybody)
pour one for a$ap (rest in peace), rip pimp c (rest in peace)
rip trayvon, that nigga look just like me, forgive my sins

this verse touches up on fashion, the notorious heavens gate cult and then a little tribute to yams, pimp c & trayvon martin.vQQKItQ“this is heaven on earth”

frank is referencing the heavens gate cult. a cult where all members had to give up human-like characteristics, such as their family, friends, sexuality, individuality, jobs, money, and possessions. in 1997, they committed a mass suicide and when found, the members were wearing nikes and were under purple cover sheets. (this isn’t the first cult frank has referenced, he alluded to jim jones on bad religion).tSGcGWxthe third verse:

(remember one thing, remember one thing: don’t take no photos in the party)
that my little cousin, he got a little trade
his girl keep the scales, a little mermaid
(that’s rule number one, rule number two: don’t take no photos in the party)
we out by the pool, some little mermaids
me and them gel
like twigs with them bangs
(rule number three: I got one left)
now that’s a real mermaid
you been holding your breath
weighted down

this third part discusses the rules to the party where the video is being shot at & a drug operation run by franks cousin.Bd3Tdt6“remember one thing, remember one thing: don’t take no photos in the party”
“that’s rule number one, rule number two: don’t take no photos in the party”Z6h8MNMthis is a direct reference to david finchers 1999 classic fight club. in fight club there are right rules however the first two are the same, “don’t talk about fight club”. the first two rules at this party are the same aswell.fj5uTMe“that my little cousin, he got a little trade
his girl keep the scales, a little mermaid”

similar to lost, a girl is being used as a drug mule, this time it’s frank little cousin who’s running the operationwmIexYxthe fourth verse:

you don’t care for me
(special shoutout to the mob n*ggas)
but who cares for me
(we keep it hot)
and that’s good
(I’ve been working on my bod, I feel hot)
we don’t talk much or nothin’
(If we in the holla at ya gwalla)
when we talkin’ about something
(oh my god, hold up)
we have good discussion

franks sings that he feels no one cares about him, all he wants is an normal conversation, something that isn’t just about money and material objects, when you get to his level of fame, it seems all people around him do is talk about riches and frank being frank, he just wants a regular conversation.HkhKzLmthe fifth verse:

we’ll let you guys prophesy
we gon’ see the future first
living so the last night feels like a past life
speaking of the, don’t know what got into people
devil be possessin’ homies
demons try to body jump
why you think I’m in this bitch wearing a fucking yarmulke
acid on me like the rain
weed crumbles in the glitter
rain, glitter

“we’ll let you guys prophesy, we gon’ see the future first”

frank states that while we can only think about the future, he’s already there.

“living so the last night feels like a past life”

franks been partying really hard, he wants to fully take advantage of every night and party for the entire time.

“devil be possessin’ homies, demons try to body jump”

it’s been said that in order to gain success and fame, you have to sell your soul to the devil. in the music video we see strippers, cars, expensive clothes and a huge party. frank is saying he’s all alone whilst his friends have been brainwashed by fame. you can see a devil in the video aswell.

“why you think I’m in this bitch wearing a fucking yarmulke”

frank is wearing yarmulke to keep the demons away, he doesn’t want the variables that come with the famePHlaZLLthe fifth verse:

we lay it out on this wet floor
away turf, no astro
mesmerized how the strobes glow
look at all the people feet dance
I know that your nigga came with you
but he ain’t with you
the only human in this humid in these balmains
I mean my balls sticking in my jeans
we breathin pheremones, amber rose
sippin’ pink-gold lemonade

frank talks about how everything looks real from the outside but inside it’s not as it seems3Niz8zL“we lay it out on this wet floor, away turf, no astro”

it looks like grass but it’s not, it’s astro turf without the astro

“the only human in this humid in these balmains, I mean my balls sticking in my jeans”

he’s wearing expensive clothes but he’s still sweating meaning the look is just a facademXasPErthe last part:

I may be younger but I look after you
we’re not in love, but I make love to you
when you’re not here I save some for you
I’m not him but I mean something to you
I mean something to you
I mean something to you

pretty self explanatory, frank is pleading to this person that his age doesn’t define his maturity and that he’s capable of taking care of them. seems like franks experiencing unrequited love once again.

thanks for reading, i’ve heard blonde and i’ll try posting my thoughts on the album when i get the chance, it’s been an incredible ride with you guys and been a pleasure sharing my thoughts and analysis on nostalgia & channel orange, enjoy blonde!

– mayday